As immigration reform rushed to the front of the political agenda last spring, Contributing Editor Carolyn Lochhead had a sense of déjà vu. As a student at Berkeley in the '80s and as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle since 1991, she was sure she'd seen this debate before. "The 1986 immigration bill was supposed to fix it," she recalls. As she researched "A Legacy of the Unforeseen" (page 35), Lochhead learned that the reruns were much older than that: The history of immigration "crises" is a cycle of panics followed by solutions that don't actually solve anything—but which always, she notes, "have unintended consequences."

In their research, George Mason University economists Tyler Cowen and Daniel M. Rothschild rigorously analyze global markets and human migration. Rigorous analysis hasn't been plentiful in the immigration debate. "I think it's an important discussion for America to have," Rothschild says, "but it degenerates quickly into appeals to emotion rather than appeals to reason." In "Don't Bad-Mouth Unskilled Immigrants" (page 42), the duo looks at the positive impact such workers have on the economy. That's something Cowen, who blogs at and writes an economics column for The New York Times, can prove another way: He maintains a popular online ethnic dining guide for the D.C. area, based on the idea that "restaurants manifest the spirit of capitalist multiculturalism."

"There's nothing wrong with organic food," stresses Cheryl Miller, who has some Thai sweet black rice stashed away in her cupboard. What she can't stand is the holier-than-thou attitude of organic boosters like Judith Levine. In "Shopping for Me, But Not for Thee" (page 61), Miller takes on Levine's memoir Not Buying It, a book that confuses Levine's consumer choices with a war on capitalism. Living comfortably in Washington, D.C., Miller says the lifestyle she and Levine enjoy has its merits, but "cornerstone of a political philosophy" is not one of them.